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Phillies Bar Review: Wishing Well

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The sixth stop in our never-ending search for the perfect bar for watching Phillies games takes us to the Bella Vista neighborhood of Philadelphia. In particular, it takes us to the Wishing Well, a.k.a. the most suitable bar known to these reviews.

Not the Wishing Well
Not the Wishing Well
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

This is the second act of a project undertaken by the author to find the proper company, both in human interaction and in drink, to endure the rebuilding era of Philadelphia Phillies baseball. Absent friends who even bother to pretend to care about the Phillies, that same author has taken to the streets, as it were, of Philadelphia and its environs to find the ideal spot to watch a Phillies game.  Just as Socrates found himself unsatisfied in his pursuit of the Forms, the present author will likely find himself in a similarly futile, albeit less noble, pursuit. Nonetheless, this series has been promised to the internet, and internet promises must be upheld.

Note: If you require a refresher on the exceptionally rigorous methodology behind these reviews, refer to the first post in this series.

This season, due to the reviewer's offseason move to the suburbs (henceforth referred to as "the ‘burbs"), the geographical scope of this series will be expanding slightly westward. Seeing as westward expansion is as essential to the American fabric weaved by old white historians as baseball, it seems justifiable that, even in its infancy, this exploration would turn westward. As it was last year, the evaluative glance will primarily focus on bars in the city of Philadelphia, but some weeks it might not be possible to conduct extended baseballing business in the city.

Blessed with the benefit of planning in advance, I was able to make my way into the city to catch a game at Bella Vista's Wishing Well bar. I have been to Wishing Well a couple of times for their amazingly cheap and delicious brunch cocktails, but have not been there in the evening. It looked like a suitable place--a small bar tucked away in a mostly-residential area--and I had heard somewhere that it was a good place to watch the Phillies. So, it was to there I decided to go for this week's Phillies Bar Review.

Aesthetic: 70

I have a picture of an ideal local neighborhood bar that I'm sure is identical to the image you, the reader, have of that same thing. Call that image to your mind, and that is what the Wishing Well looks like. This is an important feature for a good Phillies bar since we are essentially trying to capture the experience of having all of your closest Phillies fan friends over for a game without the nasty inconvenience and unbearable stress of actually buying food/drink and cleaning the visible rooms of the house for that event.

The Wishing Well captures that aesthetic. It is small-ish, with only 10-15 available seats at the bar, so the visitor gets an in-game experience to the bro-fest (or ladies-night) he or she might have back home. And, like your elegant man or lady cave at home, the Wishing Well employs a tastefully minimalist homage to the Phillies in its decor with, so far as I could tell, just a simple 2008 banner to announce its allegiance. Architecturally, the Wishing Well is set up as a very suitable venue for watching the Phillies with your closest friends and neighbors.

Phillies Game Specials: 60

The internet indicates a gameday special of select beers at $3 and $0.75 wings. I can confirm the existence of the $3 beer special as both Philadelphia Brewing Company's Kensinger and Flying Fish's Farmhouse Summer Ale--long live South Jersey!--were on special when I attended last week. Neither the beer nor the wing special was mentioned in their menu, and I did not inquire about the wing special. It may exist; it may not. Having a solid beer special and an unconfirmed rumor of a food special is enough to vault the Wishing Well's Phillies Specials a full standard deviation above the mean.

Noticeability of Game: 70

If this hasn't become clear by this point, let me put it plainly here: this is not some fancy sports bar with more TVs and channels than anyone knows what to do with. Instead, the Wishing Well has but two televisions--one at each end of the bar. At 7pm, the TV closest to me flashed a reminder that the Phillies game was on and the channels needed to be changed in response to that state of affairs. By first pitch, both TVs were changed to Comcast SportsNet, the music was cut, and the CSN audio was being streamed through the house audio system for all to hear. Noticeability literally could not have been higher given the available resources. The only deductions are on account of the not-quite-optimal resources.

Quality of Other Fans/Clientele: 70

As far as I could tell, everyone sitting at the bar was watching the game and engaging with it on a level higher than "well, I guess this is what is on" interest. Even if there were no other fans there, the bartender was probably the biggest fan there. He was wearing a Brad Lidge perfect season shirt, rang the last-call bell when Utley hit a home run, and (perhaps too) eagerly talked about fantasy baseball with me. Sharon was grateful for that last one, as she was about to be on the receiving end of the rant about the unprepared pizza delivery man and my auto-drafting of Adrian Beltre over Josh Donaldson. Relationship saver, that bartender.

The guy sitting next to me was a little odd. He was one of those older dudes who "stumps" you with ridiculously obscure trivialities from long before you were born and generally says weird shit. But, he was clearly a fan and wasn't obnoxious, so fair play to him.

Beer/Food: 60 (Beer: 55; Food: 65)

The Wishing Well has a typical tap list for an above-average Philly bar--10 beers: Kensinger, a couple selections from local breweries, a couple well-regarded beers from some of the more well-known non-macro breweries in the United States--think Bells, Sierra Nevada, Great Lakes, Lagunitas. If the Great American Pub (the Wayne, PA bar that was the subject of last week's review) had this selection, it would have probably received about a 70 grade. But for the same reasons that wRC+ considers Dante Bichette's 1999 batting line of .298/.354/.541 to be exactly average because half his games came in Coors Field, the Wishing Well's tap list only rates as slightly above average. Consider it a park adjustment penalty for being located in the city.

Sharon and I both ordered the same burger. That burger was the Incognito Burger, and it had some things on it. Those things tasted good. I think they were bacon, some fried spindly onion things, and some sort of aioli, but don't hold me to that. What impressed me was that the burger, which was ordered to be "medium-rare," was actually medium-rare. If I got a coupon with cash value of 1/100th of a cent for every burger I ordered medium-rare that was cooked medium or more, I would have the funds to start a highly-influential political action committee. Apparently it's no mean feat to cook a medium-rare burger to spec. Such an accomplishment, then, deserves our praise and our praise it shall receive.

Final Thoughts:

Unlike Ash Ketchum, I have yet to catch them all, where "catch" means something closer to "visit" and "them" refers to bars likely to show Phillies games. Yet, it was clear to me by the second inning or so that I was in the presence, if not of greatness, at least of very goodness. The Wishing Well checked all the boxes: intimate venue with other fans, game on prominent TVs with audible audio, specials during the game, good food and drink. Checking boxes seems like a mundane and thankless task, but these reviews and resulting rankings are here for the express purpose of thanking those unrecognized heroes among us.

Overall Grade: 70

Updated Rankings: As a new feature, I'll be updating the rankings of the bars I've visited based on how I graded them at the time of my visit. In the future, grades might be updated and bars might move up and down the list. Instances like those, if they ever occur, will be duly noted. Ties have been broken arbitrarily.

Bar Name

Neighborhood

Overall Score

Aesthetic

Specials

Noticeability

Other Fans

Beer/Food

Beer Subscore

Food Subscore

Wishing Well

Bella Vista

70

70

60

70

70

60

55

65

Great American Pub

Main Line

65

75

40

55

60

50

35

65

Citizens Bank Park

South Philly

60

65

25

75

65

45

55

45

Devil's Den

South Philly

55

60

35

60

25

65

70

55

Madira Bar & Grill

Point Breeze

40

30

55

40

35

60

55

60

Cavanaugh's Rittenhouse

Rittenhouse

40

70

20

45

25

55

35

70

See you next week! The subject of our next review is yet-to-be-determined. If you feel strongly that a particular bar will hold up favorably under the scrutiny of these reviews, share it in the comments and I will make every effort to feature it in a future episode.